When I posted “what would Apple do” I was surprised with the number of emails I received from people relating to me how messed up the company is. So I figured it would be fun to do some more on the subject of corporate culture and leadership.
If you are one of those lucky people that has always worked in a fun, creative and supportive corporate environment then read on and take a lesson from the rest of us that have suffered through often unbearable dysfunction to be where we are today. If you look at how a company evolves you often see them go from a small group of dedicated and brilliant collaborators to an unhappy, slow moving, and stress inducing environment later on. Why does this happen? I believe the biggest portion of the blame has to live with the senior management. Think about some of the truly brilliant and talented people you know. Many of them have jumped around the last few years from larger to smaller companies and often leave companies they helped start to go to something smaller. Why? Because they often get to a point where the organization is in the way of letting them do what they do best, being brilliant. To me this is where the leadership comes in. The CEO’s main job in my opinion is to remove the obstacles that get in the way of his/her most talented people so they can innovate, drive and foster success and a healthy corporate culture. Think about that for a minute and take this example to illustrate. Imagine some of the most amazing engineers, coders, or programmers at Apple that are critical to developing the iPhone. Now suppose Steve Jobs says to the executives, “hey, the new iPhone needs to come out in September, make it happen.” Do you think for a second that he would let the internal politics of the finance department, accounting, legal and other cross functional support teams get in the way of these juggernauts doing their jobs? No, it simply is very clear from the leadership that these other departments are there to constantly rally to remove the obstacles for the relevant talent to complete the given tasks. Now think about the unbelievable amount of politics you have to play in your company just to get the smallest of programs approved and launched. Makes you want to punch someone in the face over the stupidity doesn’t it?
This is why you see many great people leaving bigger companies to start or join smaller ones. Because somewhere along the line the place they worked started feeling like a job and not an ambition fulfilling endeavor.
So how does a company evolve in a way that keeps the talent free to do what they do best while at the same time build and maintain scalable infrastructure and controls? The answer is simple, uncompromising and passionate leadership. Leadership that comes from the type of people that really don’t care about their paycheck as much as they care about winning and achieving. Leaders that know how to see right through the often self inflicted obstacles to success. The ones that know how to recognize, feed and maintain loyalty of the best and the brightest people and then push the rest of the corporate bureaucracy out of their way so they can shift into high gear.
So with most corporate cultures often evolving to some level of dysfunction is it creating an inevitable change in employment trends? I think so, at least for the truly smart, talented and ambitious individuals with an already established resume. I think the best people are getting to a point where if their work doesn’t afford them the freedoms to reach at their true potential then they will continue to depart to someplace that will. The problem is this becomes cyclical. You go to a new, smaller or start up company, you do amazing things, the company succeeds, grows and eventually gets in your way of doing what you came there to do in the first place. So of course you seek out the next opportunity to repeat the happy part of your experience somewhere else. I hope this trend continues to grow. Maybe it is just the wake up call that companies need to recognize and begin reforming their internal problems.
I would love to hear some of your horror stories from your job, bring them on.